November 27, 2012

Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel (Paleo, AIP) and a mostly paleo Thanksgiving

Who wants to know how my mostly paleo Thanksgiving turned out? Okay, okay, you can put your hands down. Food is the last thing I want to think about after Thanksgiving, especially since I've been eating the leftovers for days. I originally planned to post about something non-food related, but I thought you guys might be interested in how to pull off a paleo Thanksgiving (or other special occasion).

Ah, who am I kidding? I didn't really pull it off.  Well, it did not go as perfectly as I had planned it in my head. If you’ve been following along, you know I try to tell it like it is. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

So first...I ate too much pumpkin pie. (And enjoyed every bite.)

My meal plan for Thanksgiving this year was not traditional. It wasn’t full of white rolls or green bean casserole or any type of casserole. (Sorry, but does anyone like that stuff? The casserole, not the rolls. I love the rolls.)  I tried to make vegetables that the kids would eat, while sticking with real food, and food that follows the paleo way of eating. After completing the Whole30 and having a family willing to allow me to cook a somewhat "different" kind of Thanksgiving, I went for it.

Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel

I made simple roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes. I made bacon and chive biscuits with coconut flour. A quick gravy was made from the drippings, onions, and garlic left after cooking a crock pot chicken. I made a pumpkin pie without white flour or evaporated milk. I roasted a chicken (my family chose chicken over turkey) with butter and herbs. Everything was made with real food. Sure the pumpkin puree came from a can, but there were no added ingredients. Nothing unrecognizable. No flour, grains, dairy (except for the butter), or refined sugars.

But wait. Guess what somehow showed up on the Thanksgiving table? White dinner rolls, traditional bread stuffing, canned cranberry sauce, canned green beans, and a cheese ball with crackers. I don’t blame my family for these foods. Well, maybe a little. I mean, they did bring them. This was food we would typically eat for Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t dare take away someone’s cheese ball (and I even tried a bite of it). My family is serious about their cheese ball. As I cooked, I heard, “There’s no peanut butter pie?” or “No deviled eggs this year?” (I’m not sure why I didn’t make deviled eggs, because I love deviled eggs.) While serving the food, kids, mostly the older ones, had to be forced to take vegetables. And no one – not one person – really liked the bacon chive biscuits.

Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel
My mostly paleo Thanksgiving
But it wasn't all bad. At least that's what they told me. The herb roasted chicken was delicious, especially the crispy skin (which always seems to disappear before dinner is served). But that's easy. The roasted butternut squash and fennel and the roasted carrots won over most. The adults were happy and even though one kid absolutely refused to taste a carrot (because it was cooked), many of the kids did taste the vegetables. Some of the kids even really enjoyed them. One of them loved the green beans. Oh wait, I didn't cook those.

So what did I learn? Don't offer to make Thanksgiving dinner again. Like ever.

I'm kidding.

Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel
Eating real food for Thanksgiving can be hard enough, and eating paleo foods only for Thanksgiving (in a family that only just learned about paleo) isn't necessarily easy. My family has always been a pasta and bread-loving family. Changing that is not easy. I certainly don't expect them to make changes just because I am. And I won't make them feel bad if they choose not to make them. I can only hope they enjoyed my real food, mostly paleo, Thanksgiving. And maybe, just maybe, next year, we won't need those white dinner rolls. And yes, I ate one of those rolls, a few days later. Don't judge. I'm still learning.

Side note: This was all in good fun. My family is very cool and understanding about my food choices (as I am of their choices) and despite how all this might sound, we had a very lovely Thanksgiving with no real arguments over food.

If you are thinking "why in the world do I care about how her Thanksgiving went?"...I hope you stuck around for the recipe. In my previous post, I shared most of the recipes I had planned. So, for the butternut squash and fennel, this is what I threw together:  

Balsamic Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel 
(serves 4-6)
Printable recipe

What you need:

1 large butternut squash
1 fennel bulb 
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary (or about 1/2 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste (omit pepper for AIP)

How to make:

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and chop the squash into cubes. I used a technique similar to this for peeling. Then peel and chop the sweet potato, also in cubes. Cut the stalks and fronds off of the fennel (saving for other use) - leaving only the bulb. Cut the bulb into small wedges. Place cut up vegetables into a glass baking dish or on a baking sheet. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and herbs. (I use this for my garlic.) Pour the mixture over the vegetables and stir to coat. Add salt and pepper to preference (I use 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper). Roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, or until tender and browned. Optional: Drizzle balsamic vinegar on top before serving.


Update: Some other possible Thanksgiving recipes

Shared at: Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable, Make Your Own MondaysNatural Living Monday

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